10 "Normal" Habits That Are Proven to Make You Less Intelligent
I can't believe that people consciously do this stuff.
As a writer and martial artist, I spend pretty much all day everyday learning.
These are 2 activities that require constant self-evaluation, exploration, and repetition.
I read books and write articles to test my mind and make it more effective. I study Jiu-Jitsu techniques and test them in the gym to develop my grappling skills. I journal and go to therapy and talk to people to improve my thinking.
Everything I (and many other people) do is designed to make me (and us) smarter. However, if there’s anything I’ve learned about learning over the years, is that learning is just as much about the things you stop doing as it is about the things you do.
Quitting these 10 habits that most people think are “normal” will without a doubt elevate your intelligence to the next level.
Fighting with people on the internet.
The first time I went viral on the internet in early 2021, I experienced an overwhelming amount of hate.
It was terrible, and my ego desperately wanted to fight back against every single person who disagreed with my ideas. I wanted to prove that I knew things and that they were wrong.
I even did “clap back” against some of my newfound haters — but it just made both of our days worse.
Fighting with people on the internet can lead to insomnia, stress, and anxiety. Anxiety, when not treated over time, will lead you to make less intelligent decisions.
The solution is simple — when someone starts an argument with you online, don’t engage.
Recently, I’ve been super interested in the effects of nutrition and diet on physical and cognitive performance.
After years and years of obsessing over my diet for weight cutting in martial arts, I’ve become a lot more interested in fueling myself properly in a way that maximizes quality. I’ve stopped optimizing for the number on the scale and started looking at what makes me perform well as an athlete/writer.
It’s hard to eat right for sports, and it’s hard to eat right for intellectual work.
It’s even harder to do both.
You must learn to eat properly and intuitively for your body. Stop following diet trends you see on Instagram or random people’s blogs and start learning what you need to feel and perform best.
Not sleeping enough.
The most transformative personal development book I’ve ever read actually had very little to do with personal development and everything to do with sleep.
That book is Why We Sleep by sleep scientist Matthew Walker.
The book states (and this isn’t hyperbole) that being sleep deprived is akin to being drunk. This is real.
Sleep enough and you will perform, feel, and live better.
Thinking that you’re super duper smart.
In Jiu-Jitsu, this happens more often than you’d expect.
Very few people expect their first sparring sessions to go as badly as they do go. They don’t usually get hurt, but they rarely do anything “good”. This is almost always the case, even for the most talented of athletes.
This is because of the Dunning-Kruger effect — you don’t know what you don’t know, so you assume you know it. It makes no sense, but everyone does it.
The sooner you get past that false sense of knowledge, the sooner you start learning for real.
Scrolling on social media.
We’ve already talked about how terrible fighting with people on the internet is for you, but scrolling is just as bad.
Scrolling on social media is essentially the same as watching porn.
If something doesn’t make your life better, it’s probably making your life worse.
Stop scrolling and go outside or do literally anything else.
Not talking to strangers.
You should talk to strangers, not fight with them.
One of the best books I read last year was Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers.
One of the simplest and most important lessons from the book is this:
Having bad communication skills will ruin your life. If you can’t express yourself effectively, can’t read other people effectively, and can’t be socially aware in uncomfortable situations, you will struggle to make connections and smart decisions.
You have to practice this skill to get good at it — you have to talk to strangers.
Watching the news.
There actually have been several studies done that concluded that watching Fox News will make you dumber.
I don’t think that any of the other cable news sources are really that much better. Find a better way to learn about the world and consume information.
And no, Twitter does not count.
Here’s a fact that startled me:
Reading is an essential tool for personal growth, and skill development, and even for preventing age-related cognitive decline.
If you don’t read, you should start. This article is not enough. Go to your library and rent a book — it’s free.
It’s not enough to just sleep, you also need to get what’s called “Non-Sleep Deep Rest”.
As you go through the workday, you need to take periods of 10–15 minutes (2–3 times per day, perhaps), where you allow your mind to rest from strenuous activity.
People love to brag about the long hours they work as a method of social posturing, but the truth is that even the most effective of us only have about 4 hours of deep work per day in us.
The more you go above that without resting, the more you’re just draining your battery and destroying your productivity.
Putting yourself down.
The stories you tell yourself are essential to your growth, happiness, and self-esteem, but they can also affect your intelligence.
Even the smartest of people are susceptible to self-sabotage, and over time, this self-sabotage will give you the results you speak about, not the results you want. You can’t be the smartest version of yourself if you think you’re stupid.
Intellectual growth is just like any skill — it requires self-awareness, self-belief, and constant re-evaluation.
Stop putting yourself down, and start building yourself up.
Before you go, here are some other things I’ve put out in the last week that you might want to check out:
This week’s premium article on technical BJJ lessons I learned in Austin a few weeks back:
This week’s Twitter thread on things to focus on for BJJ white belts:
Thanks for reading another issue of The Grappler’s Diary. If you enjoyed this post, share it with friends!